“UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
Rarely do words from children’s books sear themselves into my memory like this warning by the faceless Once-ler in Dr. Seuss’s classic The Lorax. The once-destructive (now regretful) protagonist issues this warning to the nameless child who comes to visit him, after recounting to the child his destruction of nature in the pursuit of financial gain. The Once-ler begins chopping down Truffula Trees in order to harvest their tufts and produce Thneeds, setting off a chain reaction of ecological destruction. In short sequence, he displaces the Bar-ba-loots who “played in the shade […] and happily lived, eating Truffula Fruits”, and the Swomee-Swans who must leave because he produces “such smogulous smoke […that they] can’t singe a note! No one can sing who has smog in his throat!”, and finally the marine life must leave because he is “glumping the pond where the Humming-Fish hummed! No more can they hum, for their gills are all gummed.” The once colorful illustrations slowly fade to darker, more somber colors as nature is lost and eventually his empire falls, having run out of natural resources and his family abandons him when the capital dries up.
Having told his tale to the nameless child and relayed his warning, the Once-ler entrusts to him the last remaining, precious Truffula Seed, and with it the rebuilding of their decimated ecology.
Enraged by the destruction of Eucalyptus trees in his neighborhood in California and other abnormal climactic events, and inspired by the majesty of the wildlife surrounding him in Kenya (where he wrote The Lorax), Dr. Seuss hammered out this prescient tale in just one afternoon. Each time I read it to my children, I am struck with an eerie feeling at just how accurate Dr. Seuss’s story is. He was able to make the leaps and bounds decades ahead and imagine what the world would look like if we continued on the path he saw rising. Fifty years on, I look around and see that, if we are not quite at the last page of the book, we are quickly approaching it.
But Dr. Seuss’s environmental story leaves us with an open ending— what will the child do with the last Truffula Seed? Will he indeed ‘care a whole awful lot’, as the grieving Once-ler implores him? What does the sequel to The Lorax look like?
And this is where we, collectively, now stand. In response to the Climate and Ecological Emergency we all face, XR Wordsmiths invites you to imagine what that better world we are working for looks like. Riding the wave of the Solarpunk genre, which uses art to visualize a world in which nature, technology, and humans live in harmony, we launched our first annual Solarpunk Storytelling Showcase. This showcase is open to writers of all ages and abilities and invites you to write us a short story of a positive imagined future.
Imagination is a powerful liberating tool, enabling us to realise, shape and create our demands . It can spur us on the path to rebuilding, reconciling, and healing. What we don’t want is obvious.; Imagining what we do want takes trust and courage. Imagination is transformative and transportive. By closing our eyes and allowing our minds to wander, we enter a better world. We invite you to flesh out those visions and bring them to life. Ideas inspire. And inspiration can be contagious. Once a vision of what life could be has taken seed, it is difficult to shake off and accept the status quo. Imagination can inspire action. We know the doom and gloom ravaging the world now and what could lie ahead, but what would an alternative look like?
What would you do, holding that last Truffula Seed?
Humanity has long lived out of balance with nature. To the colonialist, extractivist machine into which we in “the west” are born and unto which we are subservient, nature has been many things: in the early days of conquest, as we pushed against the boundaries of a world bordered by dragons, nature was full of menace: a spectre that could take our lives at any moment and was waiting to consume, drown, or poison us in our nightmares. Later it was an obstacle against which we could prove ourselves and validate our superiority, both individually and as a species. Finally it became a “natural resource”. Something from which we can take, and take, and take.
People who lived in balance with nature were alternatively labelled as savages (albeit sometimes “noble”) or as amusing eccentrics. They were labelled as such by people who lived in megacities that spread across the Earth like a virus and clustered round increasingly polluted rivers where huge ships laden with booty from across the earth brought their gifts of consumption to ravenous masses.
Finally that is changing. Finally we realise that we are nothing but animals.
How can we channel this discovery?
What would we say to the other mammals – let alone the birds, bees, snakes and octopuses? And how might things be if they understood our communication ? What if we understood their reply? j
And why stop at our fellow fauna? Why not the trees? And the fungi? And perhaps even the hills and the mountains, who channel a language of deep time going back to the very beginning? Could we ever understand their language and converse with them? If we did, how might the world look in the times that followed this Revelation?
Our challenge then, is this – tell us how the world might look if we lived lives as part of the eco instead of serving the ego. Because this is Solarpunk.
Open your laptop, take up your pen, set your imagination free – and we await your vision.
Visit us at xrwordsmiths.com for all the details. Happy imagining, and happy writing!
Shireen Tawil is an independent researcher, writer, and activist whose work focuses on health, human rights and social justice. She’s a member of XR Wordsmiths and Palestinian Feminist Collective and lives in London with her husband and two wonderful kids.